More Thoughts on Terri

Ken AshfordAssisited Suicide/Schiavo, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

Okay.  I wanted to write a lengthy response to Professor Volokh’s bombshell in which he advocates torture (you’re never going to get on the Supreme Court that way, Eugene!), but I guess I better focus more on Terri Schiavo since — I’m told — my analysis of the case was rather amateurish and undetailed.

To which I plead guilty.

Guilty with an explanation.  The Schiavo case has over a decade of factual evidence, much of which is disputed by the parties directly involved.  On top of that, there is a lot of DISinformation being put out by proponents of both sides.  And if that is not bad enough, there are ethical issues which spill over into the realm of religion, philosophy, etc. . . . and that always gets people’s dander up.

My interest in Schiavo is not simply whether she should live horribly or die with dignity.  It is about the process by which we decide, rather than the decision itself.

So here I go.

One of the reasons that civilized countries have legal systems is to establish repose.  In other words, we have to get on with our lives (or perhaps, in cases like Terri’s, our deaths) and a legal system is civilized society’s way of resolving disputes so that the wheels may turn.

As a lawyer — and every lawyer will tell you the same thing — I see clients who are so convinced that they are right and the other side is wrong, even though the other side is equally so convinced that they are right and you are wrong.  And obviously, both cannot be right.  Be we have to make a decision, and that’s what courts are for.  That’s how it works.  Otherwise, we end up like the characters in ST’s "Let This Be Your Last Battlefield", destined to spend eternity in a neverending struggle.

Now, to be sure, the legal system is flawed.  O.J. gets away (probably) with murder, and so on.  I won’t deny it.  But it is the only system we have, and nobody has yet to come up with a better one.

Both sides in the Schiavo debate have had full and complete access to the courts.  In fact, more than enough access.  They have opportunity after opportunity to have their evidence heard.  And reheard and reheard.  The battle of the experts has been played over and over and over and over again.  And the various judges and courts have made their decisions.  The process has been played out:

There have been at least 11 applications to the Florida Court of Appeal in this case resulting in four published decisions; four applications to the Florida Supreme Court with one published decision (Bush v. Schiavo); three lawsuits in federal district court; three applications to the U.S. Supreme Court and nearly untold motions in the trial court. (Source)

And while many may feel that the courts have decided wrongly, it is folly to say that the courts were unaware of the evidence presented by both sides. 

So, even though I am pretty well-read on Schiavo, I don’t claim (as the Terri-torturers seem to do) to be omniscient about every aspect.  And unlike them, I think I do have the high ground of objectivivity, if only because I recognize that I am NOT omniscient; i.e., I am NOT in her head.  Nor do I pretend to be.  I am also more objective because I do not cloak myself solely in "evidence" that points to the outcome which I would desire in the first place.

So while reasonable people unconnected with Schiavo can, based on what they have read, still debate about consciousness and vegetative states and rehabilitation possibilities and allegations of abuse and yada yada yada, there is one thing that is most certainly undisputed: the courts have been through these arguments before time and time again

And unless there is a specific allegation that the various judges and commissions and other factfinders are all "on the take", I have to believe that they weighed the evidence — all of it — impartially and reasonably. 

And the ruling is to let Terry’s life end with dignity.

So that day has come.  The arguments have all been made and heard, and the Johnny-Come-Latelys to the Schiavo case — many (on both sides) who have their own political agenda — should just pack their bags and go home.  Terri’s wishes won out, you lost.  It’s time to restore some dignity to her, and that can only happen when the circus leaves town. 

That includes the clowns in Congress (you know, the Republicans who used to think the federal government should keep away from states’ rights), who shouldn’t be sticking their nose in this issue in the first place (unless they intend to do it in EVERY case, which is not within their mandate).

UPDATE: My girl Majikthise has a good roundup of Terri myths here.  It’s a good balance to the well-financed special interest groups who put out misinformation in furtherance of their own (anti-choice) agenda.  Follow her links, too. 

Abstract Appeal also has a pretty neutral site, with plenty of links to source documents from the courts.

MORE UPDATE:  I think Atrios has the correct final word:

Living Wills
Just go write them, now. That is all.